Biden's Age, Trump Crimes and the Media's False Equivalence
Biden's age is a legitimate story, but the political press is covering it all wrong
Last week, I was having a nice morning, enjoying my coffee while my kids slept past 6:30 A.M. (a rare feat) when Tommy Vietor shared an infuriating New York Times story. Here’s how the self-proclaimed paper of record decided to report on President Biden’s grueling 5-day trip to Asia. Nearly every line of the story is rage-inducing, but this might be the most annoying part:
In three days of diplomacy in Asia, President Biden rallied world leaders to help finance poor nations, fortified the coalition backing Ukraine and struck a deal with Vietnam to counter Chinese aggression.
But even before he left Vietnam on Sunday night, the president was hammered with a very different narrative. By Monday morning, as the 80-year-old president was flying home on Air Force One, conservative media outlets had seized on his end-of-trip news conference as the latest evidence that he is too old to perform on the world stage.
I promise you that the apparatchiks at the Trump campaign are high-fiving over the fact that they got the New York Times to push their chosen narrative about Biden even though the entire trip undermined that narrative.
It’s not just the New York Times, the Associated Press recently headlined a story on their new poll with this atrocity:
“Trump has problems of his own.” Hmm, I wonder what those could possibly be. Do people not like his policy platform? Are they concerned about his position on Social Security? Or maybe Trump’s problems have something to do with the fact that HE HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH 91 FELONIES IN FOUR CASES IN FOUR JURISDICTIONS!
And then a few days later, NBC’s First Read newsletter landed in my inbox with the following subject line: “Biden’s age v. Trump’s alleged crimes: Poll finds liabilities for both frontrunners.”
WTF are we doing here?
Not to pick on the New York Times, Associated Press, and NBC, but these headlines (and the stories themselves) are emblematic of a very concerning trend in how the bulk of the political press is covering the 2024 election. In a desperate attempt at balance, the media is equating Biden’s age with Donald Trump’s criminal behavior emanating from stealing classified documents and trying to overturn an election. In any scenario, this would be ridiculous, but it’s particularly absurd because Donald Trump is a grand total of three years younger than Joe Biden.
But.. I fear the political press is headed towards a repeat of its grievous errors in the 2016 election when Hillary Clinton’s email usage was given equal or greater weight than the sum total of Trump’s crimes, corruption, racism, and rank incompetence. Poll-driven coverage, focused on the horserace, is once again creating a dangerous false equivalency.
The President’s age is a significant political challenge. There is no disputing that fact. The press is not solely responsible for that challenge, but they are inflaming the issue.
Legit Questions v. Irresponsible Speculation
Joe Biden is the oldest President in U.S. history. He will be 82 on Election Day 2024. By seeking reelection, he is asking the American people to do something unprecedented. The media — and the voters — should not simply take Biden at his word when he says he is up to the job. Of course, they should closely cover the White House and ensure that he is capable of performing the awesome responsibilities his position entails. I am not objecting to that coverage.